Monthly Archives: December 2014

[Oh, Snap] A Holiday Stroll Through The Descanso Gardens

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As I’ve grown up over the years, the holidays have become less and less about the physical, tangible presents exchanged among family and friends, and in turn – more and more about the actual holiday presence of the same individuals.  I mean, sure – who doesn’t love a gift every now and again; especially if it’s heartfelt and / or handmade.  My parents are pros at both of those, but to this day I honestly still prefer long strolls and chatting them up to anything that money could actually buy. The other week, I was struck with an awkward work situation – I was going to be the big boss for a few days while my boss was out, but for the Friday and Monday after the holidays.  My original feelings were a hodgepodge of frustration, anger and sadness that I wouldn’t be able to spend the days with my parents, but instead of getting into a bind about it – we did a quick about face; for the first time since moving down to LA, they were finally going to visit me for the holidays and enjoy a crisp, clear Christmas in the City of Angels.

The crazy thing about living in East Los Angeles is that I’ve gone from being surrounded by city streets, skyrises and bustling public transportation into an area that’s a much slower pace of life, and where nature is seemingly more abundant, though in truth – maybe I’m finding it more frequently, because I’m looking for it more.  Over the last year, Danny and I’ve explored a plethora of parks and finally – we’re running out of Botanical Gardens to introduce ourselves to in the area; it’s a beautiful thing! After the local options are exhausted, we’re going to spend our weekends traveling – in search of the serenity that only nature can provide.  After tackling Griffith Park, The Huntington and The Arboretum – it was time to conquer the Descanso Gardens and I was stoked to bring my parents along for the ride.  Being a holiday, there were barely any people in the park which was nice – and for the record, the Descanso Gardens are only closed a few days of the year, Christmas Day being one of them.

After spending the early afternoon galavanting around and grabbing some quick and hunger quenching pizza at Blaze in Pasadena, we were off to Descanso – located right about where the 2 and the 210 meet in La Canada / Flintridge. Unlike the other gardens we’ve visited which were much more in the heart of the city and centrally located, Descanso is a little further out of range of the city and has the stunning landscape to prove it.  We started in the Japanese Garden and wound around to the Live Oaks Forest, the Camelias, a California Native Plant Garden and last but certainly not least, the wonderful Rose Garden.  But, that’s not to say we always stayed on the beaten path – we definitely jumped off a few times, hiked through the hills and stole a stunning view of the city.  Though there wasn’t as much color or variety as the other gardens we’ve been to (which, truthfully, could just be due to the time of year) – I really enjoyed strolling through and enjoying the forested areas.  The Descanso Gardens are perfect for a mid-week walk, artistic inspiration or a little reading on a beautiful day.

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[Stream On] December’s Hottest Netflix Rentals

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One of the best decisions I made last year was to forfeit my subscription to cable television; if it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to you, I commend you – because you’re right: it shouldn’t.  There were late nights I would stay up, scrolling through obscure channels asking my Twitter friends where the hell I could actually watch the ‘News’ – you know, with facts, not talking heads?  It was then that I realized how ridiculous it was that so many people are tethered to a static box, when their imagination and feet could take them infinitely outward and inward.

When I moved in with Danny in the Spring, I made the decision to quit cable all together – and to this day, it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever had. Now, not to get it twisted – we’re heavy intenet users that are in lust with the capabilities of Apple TV and between the three of us, finagled manageable subscriptions to Hulu+, HBO Go and Netflix. Sure, I miss live sports games (which, I could remedy with a NBA Package), and Homeland hour where I’d turn off my phone and glue myself to the big screen in my living room; but now that I’m not subscribing to someone else’s schedule, my life feels more free – and I honestly don’t remember what it’s like to have cable, nor do I miss it.  Not to mention, renting a movie from the iTunes Store finally seems like a great idea; not only is it cheaper than going to a movie theater, sans the nostalgia of course, but they download quickly, come in HD quality and are available for 24 hours.

Working from home, I tend to marathon through TV Series efficiently and can ingest multiple documentaries in a day – suffice it to say, I go through a lot of options and sometimes, come up empty handed.  But sometimes, there’s a rare gem or few that catch my fancy and I’m uber stoked to share them with you.  Heading into the Holidays, I’m sure you’ll find yourself with some extra downtime – either solo, with friends or family – so feast your eyes on these fancies. Some of these have been up for a minute, others are hot fresh on Netflix’s streaming shelf – either way, they’re downright enjoyable, humorous and intellectual pursuits that in one shape or form I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

Frequencies (OXV: The Manual) .

Imagine a parallel universe where your life trajectory is calculated on the frequency that you give off; how would that effect your interactions, your passions, your destiny?   Made with the same dose of intellectual British Humor as the latest ‘Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, Frequencies is a wonderful thought experiment wrapped in a romantic comedy.

An absolute must watch with your best friends, significant other or even better – on a solo mission, this is a movie for anyone who’s pondered the eternal debate of ‘Fate’ versus ‘Free Will’. I’ve already watched it three times, and each time it gets better and better.

Breaking the Taboo

The Current Civil Rights uprising in America, a community outrage against institutionalized injustice, has compounded socio-economic roots, many of them found within the taboo of Drug use.  As it stands, the majority of our incarcerated population is there because they’ve chosen to alter their state of consciousness – the one part of our body that we deserve a sovereign right to.  In the United States, we gave 5% of the World’s Population, but 25% of the Global Prison Population  with a whopping 2.5 million people behind bars.  And now, in 2014 – we have for profit prisons that need a 90% retention rate to stay in business.

The War on Drugs has been happening since the 80’s, but the War on Drugs is a War on Humanity in Masquerade. By systematically keeping down part of the population, part of the world – people are dying, wars are ravaging countries, and the illegal drug trade has become the third most profitable industry in the world. Instead of supplying, infiltrating and perpetuating this negative feedback cycle that’s become of the ‘War on Drugs’, the money could be better spent on education, mental health and awareness.

A pivotal, important film – Breaking the Taboo focuses on both a failed National campaign against drug use and global war on drugs and the failures set in stone since the launch of the United Nation’s Singe Convention on Narcotic Drugs.

All Hail King Julien (Series)

Lemur Lovers, rejoice! Slightly dopey, incredibly lovable and definitely worth a few laughs – this Animated Netflix Original TV Series comes from the Dreamworks camp and is based on the successful movie series Madagascar.  The series focuses on my personal favorite character: King Julien – the enigmatic, slightly inane leader of the Lemurs.  Great for some late night laughter with the family, or even just with your friends after a few drinks – All Hail King Julien packs a hearty punch and I’ve absolutely loving it.

Anchorman 2

I don’t know about the lot of you guys, but I refused to see Anchorman 2 in theaters based purely on principal.  The first one, an undisputed cult classic, is still heavily quoted among my friend group and I was a little scared to have it get ruined. There were lots of laughs, but the story didn’t pull together quite as nice as the first flick; but it’s definitely worth the watch if you haven’t had the chance.

Wolf of Wall Street

As a guy’s girl – basketball playing, whiskey drinking, foul mouthed and extra sassy – there was a whole lot of fun to be had in the world of ‘Wolf of Wall Street’….as long as you were either male, or a whore. The fast paced, financially driven world only seems glamorous from the Hollywood perspective, and in that regard ‘WoWS’ is a fun romp on the WASP side with predictably tragic, yet endearing, results. Either way, it’s one hell of a ride – and perfect to toss on if you’re getting back together with your High School friends back at home over break.

[Oh, Snap] Celebrating the Elements of Winter Solstice in Big Bear

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Perpetually enraptured by the bright lights, booming sounds and the effervescent buzz of humanity within the heart of a giant metropolis like Los Angeles, or San Francisco where I was raised, I’m constantly dazzled, delighted by and devouring each and every detail of my surroundings like a fine wine.  With a step-mother from the North East and a father from Oregon, every now and again they’d toss in a dash of Corvallis countryside, assorted camping trips with my pre-school, some hikes here and there and some family vacations in locations I now wish I could’ve appreciated in their entirety. Almost two decades ago when I was a wee 5th Grader (…at 5’10″…), I accompanied by my Grandmother to an ‘Elderhostel’ in Mount Denali, Alaska over the Summer Solstice.  Sure, I knew that it was the day of the year with the least amount of darkness – but had I understood then what I know now about the solstice, changing of the seasons, position of the stars and angles of the planets, I would’ve had a much deeper, greater appreciation for mother nature and all of it’s offerings.IMG_5202

Yesterday at 3:03 PM Pacific Time, Winter Solstice hit the West Coast – wondrous, wild and incredibly elemental.  Contrary to (my…) popular belief, Solstice doesn’t imply that the sun is setting at it’s earliest for the year – in fact, due to discrepancies between our modern Gregorian calendar and the actual cycle of planets, the majority of the Northern Hemisphere delights in the earliest sunset a few days before and the latest sunrise a few days after Winter Solstice occurs. But, what it does mean is that we’re getting the least amount of sunlight (conversely, the lengthiest amount of darkness) of the whole year as the Sun reaches it’s lowest vertex – around -23.5°.  Often referred to as Yule, December Solstice and the first day of Winter, the Winter Solstice ushers in the new moon in Capricorn.

Be it my love of a man befit for the mountains, a rapidly growing disdain for the ‘fast life’ or my commitment to adventuring through a healthy proportion of our countries National Park system – but I’ve been on a mission to conquer at least one new park a month, if not more.  Our friend’s adorable puppy was having his 3rd (or, 21st) birthday depending on how you look at those types of things and he invited us to tag along up to Big Bear.  As someone who can count the number of times they’ve seen snow fall on one hand – I couldn’t help but squee with glee. We were heading up Sunday and after a few quick calculations, I realized that I’d be truly in the elements for Winter Solstice.  I’ve never skied, gone snowboarding and definitely don’t own many snow appropriate pieces of clothing – but how could I pass up a chance to really welcome Winter and celebrate the Winter Solstice? Of course we were in!

If you’re heading up to Big Bear for the weekend, I vote you check out Air BnB for some gorgeous one night rentals; but if you’re going up for the day, like we did, meet up with your friends in the Stater Brothers parking lot before you head into Redlands.  It’s right between the 38 and the 330, so you can mash the whole mountain – plus, you should probably stock up on some power bars, water, whiskey (don’t forget the whiskey, and a flask…), fruit roll-ups and any other crucial snackables you might want as you gallivant throughout the mountains.   We started at at the Thurman Flats Picnic Area, but seeing as the snow is incredibly frozen – there wasn’t much runoff at the moment.  So, we slowly wound around the mountain – first hitting the Forest Falls Waterfalls which was a beautiful hike off the beaten trail.

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After reviewing the tread on the bottoms of our shoes (aka there wasn’t any), we decided to rent some snow shoes (knock that one off my life bucket list!) and head up to Green Valley Lake. It was definitely a hike, but so worth it. Nature fueled, wonder filled – as I looked into the vast, white beyond I felt humbled and happy, elated and insignificant.

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I absolutely loved spending Winter Solstice fully immersed by Winter: ice, snow, snowmen, children scream laughing while their parents threw snow balls. Not only that, but the drive was gorgeous and the sunset – doubly so.

How to you celebrate the changing of the seasons?

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[The Audiofiles] Alt-J: Changing the Game

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In the current state of the music industry – genres are merging, producers across the board are collaborating and the end result is a smorgasborg of music that simply put moves the feet and soothes the soul. Guitar riffs layered over gritty, emotive lyrics; basslines pulsing in time with your heart beat; ethereal melodies dichotomized by dissonant chords and tense moments dispelled by eerie moments of quiet.  Partly thanks to advances in modern technology like streaming media, though in part also due to piracy problems, today’s music makers are sitting on an epoch of music history; commercial ‘pop’ music is as readily available as what the rest of us consider ‘underground’ tech house, trap, glitch, minimal and all of those other nuanced sub-genres that might or might not actually exist anywhere beyond our minds.

Musicians are compounded, creative beings, constantly evolving from generations and artists before them.  Unknowingly or in tribute, time and time again artists sonically ingrain their surroundings into their source material – only to remix, rework, regurgitate, and revolve the cycle of the arts once more.

It was a typical Tuesday morning – scouring Soundcloud and hunting through Hypem.  Lido’s remix of ‘Left Hand High’ came through my feed and I was instantly hooked. Repeat Button. Within moments, I was having a one person dance party in my living room, grooving to the deliciously layered drops and almost ethereal vocals. Twenty minutes later, I emerged from a trancelike haze – instantly yearning for more.  Instead of doing the typical – researching the remixer, I pulled back a layer to find Alt-J.

Though Alt-J(∆)’s been around for the better part of the last decade, they’ve only been releasing music for since 2012 and I didn’t discover them until literally a week ago. A triumvirate of creativity, Alt-J is constantly pushing back on the boundaries in the most beautiful way.  In the Venn Diagram of Alternative Rock, Indie Electro and Hip-Hop Syncopation, Alt-J sits proudly front and center. Diving further into their discography, I’ve come to a unique conclusion – I almost don’t like any remixes of their work.  And why would I? Did the Mona Lisa need a Lo-Fi filter? Great work needs no retouching, and almost every remix I’ve heard seems like a building block of their intricate design – not an homage to their work or a complex re-imagining of their harmonies.

If you don’t believe me, try this on for size: after logging at least 100 listens to ‘Left Hand High’ (and no, I’m not kidding), I matriculated on to Story 4: Sleeplessly Embracing. So, for a second – take all I knew of Alt-J. I’ve heard Tessilate and Breezeblock on the radio, and then all a sudden – a glitching, booming bassline takes over – grimy, street smart lyrics overflow my headphones as the bass fills my body.  Combine that all into one compact musical package, and what you have borders on genius.

[Weekly Dose of Wisdom] Let Freedom Ring

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In the wake of the various protests around the Country, from Ferguson and Michael Brown, New York and Eric Garner, Oakland and Berkeley dealing with their own socio-political unrest and workers from Wal Mart to McDonalds waging a strike against minimum wage, we’re at the cusp of a revolution in this country.  And for being 30, it’s a shame that my childhood and adulthood weren’t spotted with more unrest – lower college tuition, raising the working wage so families didn’t have to live paycheck to paycheck, fighting for equal pay for equal time; there are so many pertinent issues that are seemingly finally coming to a head.  We’re in the process of repeating history, of reliving the old Civil Rights Movement and I wanted to take some time and marinate on our current social, economic and political climate.  Quote about adversity, diversity, strife, freedom, the aggregious overreach of power and the like.

Ghandi, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King Jr, Malcolm X – each speaks to a generation, a people; loud, soft, proud, poignant – their words might differ, but their messages are mirrored and echoed throughout time and eternity.  Raise your voice and take a stand; be proud of your cultural heritage, but be prouder that you can now do something about it’s current vector.

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[Self Discovery] 31 Before 31: A New Year – A New Bucket List

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Fresh off of my birthday weekend, I’m coming into 30 with a brand new outlook on life, a zest for exploring, a lust for learning and an eye for adventure. 29 was an amazing journey, and I’m absolutely blessed that I’ve passionately forged a new path for myself, even if it was taking the road less traveled.  My wanderlust took me around the Greater West Coast – from Utah, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and up to my first trip to Canada.  I have an ETSY store for my chromotherapy candles and I’m going into the New Year with a fiance in tow and a wedding to plan. Some things are slightly inevitable and others, anything but – either way, I’m excited to tackle some new endeavors and inspired to catalog the journeys.

Looking back at the past year, I almost spent so much time lamenting, stressing and bemoaning that I was turning Thirty that could’ve very well not enjoyed the last year of my 20’s [Spoiler Alert: Don’t worry, it was very much enjoyed].  But, it brought me to an excellent realization the night of my birthday party: any time we’re spending being anxious or worried is time that we’re not spending in the present moment. To fully breathe, live and laugh in the now – you need to lose any and all ties to the past, the ego and your preconceptions of the path you’re walking.  And remember, if you don’t choose to push the boundaries of your comfort zone – how exactly can you be sure where they are?

  1. Finish 25 Books
    1. The Beginners Guide to Constructing The Universe by Michael S. Schneider
    2. Vibrational Healing Through the Chakras by Joy Gardner
    3. The Agile Gene by Matt Ridley
    4. The Joyous Cosmology by Alan Watts
    5. You Are Here by Thích Nhất Hạnh
    6. The Tao of Pooh
  2. Make Potstickers
  3. Get Published in The Huffington Post
    1. Step One: Got Danny’s photos and a Nod to The DJ List! Next Up: my own article!
  4. Freelance PR
  5. Visit the East Coast
  6. Learn how to ride a Bike
  7. Sing Karaoke For a Crowd
  8. Get a New Tattoo
  9. Shoot a Gun
  10. Learn French
  11. Plan a Wedding
  12. Run a 5K
  13. See the Grand Canyon
  14. Learn to Hula Hoop
  15. Make Your Own Sushi Night
  16. Walk the Golden Gate Bridge
  17. Go Camping at Joshua Tree
  18. Buy a Stranger’s Meal
  19. Launch a Lifestyle + Music Blog for Southern California
  20. March in a Protest
  21. Watch a Meteor Shower
  22. Host a Weekend Getaway
  23. Crochet a Blanket
  24. Find a New Hike Every Month
    1. December: The Los Angeles Arboretum | Big Bear | Crissy Park
    2. January: UC Botanical Garden
    3. February: Glenoaks Canyon
    4. March: Desert Hearts @ Los Coyotes Indian Campground
    5. April: Coachella, Indio
    6. May: Lightning in a Bottle, San Antonio Recreation Area
    7. July: Woogie Weekend, Irvine Lake
    8. August: Multnomah Falls, Oregon
    9. September: Big Bear
    10. October: Big Sur, California
    11. November: Stanford Arboretum + Arizona Cactus Garden
    12. December: LA Zoo Nights
  25. Have a Craft Stand at a Local Flea Market / Farmer’s Market
  26. Use a Sewing Machine
  27. Build a Website From Scratch
  28. Write a Short Story
  29. Learn the Piano
  30. Create a Coffee Table Photo Book
  31. Make Incense

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[Oh, Snap!] A Beautiful Day Off at The LA Arboretum

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One benefit of completing less than half of my Thirty Before Thirty Bucket List is that I already have a substantial start on my list for my 31st Birthday next year. Even though I’ve kicked myself a bit on the things that were left half undone or completely neglected, admittedly I’m equally impressed with the caliber of quests I’ve accomplished. Between becoming quite a kitchen kitten with my pickles and olive oils, crafting candles, learning to use a DSLR, and covering both National and Internationally renowned music festivals – I’ve knocked a few pegs off my list and I’m itching to add more. One that I’m excited to continue into the New Year is my Resolution on hiking a new botanical garden, historic park, museum or arboretum to visit. With a ridiculously fun birthday weekend on tap, I planned ahead and took today (the day after my actual birthday) off of work to celebrate, relax and rejoice in whatever personal what I felt. So, Danny and I descended on a lovely day-venture at the Los Angeles County Arboretum in Arcadia.

The very first thing I noticed were just how many peacocks were roaming the area – and hummingbirds, butterflies, bunny rabbits and assorted wildlife. We had a wonderful time gallivanting through the African and Australian Outbacks, wistfully wandering around waterfalls and stealing every stunning view we could.

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The most staggering thing for me were those multiple moments where I’d lost all sense of location, time and place; for all I knew, I was in Northern California or Utah, Arizona or Washington.  For a second, I was transported out of the tug-of-war of Los Angeles traffic and personalities and delicately displaced into acres upon acres of lush rolling grass, rose gardens, carnivorous gardens, greenhouses, succulents and my personal favorite – the bamboo groves.

For more on the LA Arboretum, check out their website, Facebook or Twitter – or if you happen to live in the Southern California area or are plotting a visit, just store the GPS Info in your phone like, now. Fun fact: on the Third Tuesday of every month, admission is free!